When we first started product development for Moo & Yoo, we sat down and wrote a list of ingredients and resources that we felt as a business we would never use. The top of that list was palm oil.
What Is Palm Oil?
Palm oil is a vegetable oil which is derived from palm oil trees. These trees are native to Africa however were introduced to South-East Asia, with Malaysia and Indonesia making up over 85% of palm oil global supply.
Back in 2013, as a family went on a trip to Borneo rainforest and witnessed first-hand the devastation palm oil plantations inflict on the rainforest and the habitats within. We had planned to visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
which was just at the edge of the Borneo rainforest. To get there we had to drive through acres of palm oil plantations, the sheer scale of these plantations was shocking to see. At this stage I knew palm oil plantations had a negative affect on the rainforest and wildlife, but it wasn’t until we were at the centre I really learned how destructive it is.
When we got to the edge of the rainforest we met with a lovely group of volunteers who run an orangutan rescue and rehabilitation centre in Sepilok. They worked to rescue and care for orangutans of all ages that have been orphaned, injured or negatively impacted by deforestation and logging in surrounding areas. The main aim for the orangutan rehabilitation centre is to raise and teach the orangutans how to survive independently so once they are ready, the orangutans can be released into the wild. The centre’s main focus was primarily on rehabilitating orangutans as they are an endangered species however they do rescue other animals too.
Visiting the centre and learning about the impact surrounding palm oil plantations have had on these beautiful creatures was an amazing yet difficult experience. Learning about the destruction of so many habitats as a result of mass deforestation to make room for the surrounding palm oil plantations was devastating. The methods used to clear the rainforest was shocking, using fire to burn through so many habitats with fires frequently out of control burning more of the rainforest than is needed. Not only is this destroying so many lives, it releases toxic and harmful gases into the atmosphere negatively impacting the environment too.
Once the forests are destroyed many animals become confused and venture out of the forest into the plantations in search of their homes and food. We were told that this leads to many getting lost, starving and often results in death. There is also an increased risk as the animals are more exposed to poachers and plantation workers who tend to harm or sell orangutans illegally. When you hear and see the devastation first-hand it really isn’t surprising to see why these amazing creatures are endangered.
Driving back from the centre through the many acres of palm oil plantations, it was hard to process that all that land had once been part of the rainforest and home to many different species. It felt really heavy witnessing the impact we as humans have had on another species and it was an experience I will forever carry with me.
Can Palm Oil Be Sustainable?
It is important to note that some palm oil can be harvested more sustainably, this is shown through the ingredient being certified as sustainable (CSPO). This means that farming certified palm oil has a lower environmental impact than non-certified. Certified palm oil is often harvested on existing plantations so does not actively contribute to deforestation, it is encouraging that certification is an initiative going forward. For us knowing that existing palm oil plantations are still likely land that was originally part of the rainforest combined with our personal experience when visiting Borneo, we are not comfortable making products that contain palm oil. This is our personal preference and every person is different, the most important thing is you do your research to make sure you are making informed decisions.
What Can You Do To Help?
Learn more about palm oil and the affects it has on the environment. Taking the time to learn can put you in a much better position when it comes to reducing your own personal environmental impact! I would urge you to have a look at the products you buy, from your beauty products to the food you eat, and see how many items contain palm oil. You'd be surprised how much this ingredient is used!
Boycott Unsustainable Palm Oil
As long as there is a demand, there will be room made for plantations. The more people that stop using products containing palm oil, the less demand there will be for the industry to produce it. There are so many product alternatives out there so I would highly recommend researching some sustainable swaps!
Support & Spread Awareness
Supporting charities and centre's either through donation or sharing their content to spread awareness can be a massive help. Not only can it help financially support the work they are doing, but it can help educate others around you and encourage them to make more conscious choices when it comes to their consumer habits.
If you take anything from this post, please let it be that you need to be more conscious with your consumer habits. Knowing what goes into the products you buy and where they come from is such an important part of moving forward towards a sustainable future.
To find out more about the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre click the link to their website here
Olivia & The Moo Family x